The U.S. experienced its first major COVID outbreak in March and April of last year. Right alongside, unfortunately, came a dramatic spike in anti-Asian hate crimes.
"People are telling their grandparents and their parents not to go outside. People are telling their children not to go play outside, even though the weather is nice. And it's been over a year of these sorts of feelings and in recent weeks have only increased with our attacks on the elderly and the murders in Atlanta, Georgia," said Rep. Grace Meng, during a recent press conference.
Overall hate crimes against Asian-Americans were up by nearly 150 percent in 2020.
"In the Asian-American community now, we are fighting two viruses, right? We are fighting COVID-19 and anti-Asian hate virus," said Kim Horrigan, an Asian-American mother who has chosen to keep her 8-year-old son out of school even though it has reopened for in-person learning.
In order to prevent attacks, state and local officials are increasing patrols in Asian-American communities, while encouraging the public to report any incidents. Federal lawmakers hope a new bill will back up those efforts.
"This legislation, quite simply, gives resources to make it easier for our federal government to record this data and makes it easier for victims to report this data," Rep. Meng said.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved the COVID Hate Crimes Act. It would require the Justice Department to make investigating COVID-related hate crimes a priority, and provide local police more resources to respond to the violence.
"This is the first time that we will stand up as a body to say that we condemn these kinds of crimes and we are going to recognize it for what it is, hate crimes, and we are going to do something about it. This is very bipartisan. And I worked very closely with Susan Collins," said Sen. Mazie Hirono, a co-sponsor of the bill.
The White House also supports the COVID Hate Crimes Act, and the Democrat-led House plans to quickly pass the legislation and send it to Biden's desk.